Cloud printing services (CPSs), as defined by Gartner, are hosted cloud computing offerings that enable users to print documents on any device associated with the cloud. CPS providers host a cloud infrastructure that includes their own, their partners' and/or their customers' printers and associated network infrastructure. Users create content with any software tool and transfer the file to a CPS provider via any device they choose. The provider then routes the file to a cloud-attached printer at a location selected by the user. Gartner divides the market into three versions of CPSs: public cloud, private cloud and dual (private and public) cloud. 

The public CPS market still has neither a clear leader in technology or services, nor a dominant pricing model. At the moment, there are currently 12 different pricing models. No industry standard has been established, and providers are jockeying for position. 
In theory, cloud printing enables you to print when, where and what you want. Trends in mobility have been driving demand and development thus far, but full market potential is being stifled by several significant barriers to growth. However, these barriers are being gradually eroded, making printing via the cloud an increasingly accessible service.

You will always need to print on the move
Increased use of devices, like smartphones and tablets, is driving CPSs. While smartphone and tablet use is experiencing a rapid growth pattern, you will always need to print something; as you increase the amount of time you are on the move (particularly for business), your need to print while traveling will increase. In October and November 2012, Gartner surveyed attendees at its annual Symposium/ITxpo, held in the US, EMEA and Australia, as well as surveying at their 2011 Symposium. The 361 respondents represented organizations that manufacture technology products or provide technology services to either other organizations or to consumers. Ninety percent of respondents indicated they print when traveling.

Cloud printing services are increasingly available

Public facilities, like airports, libraries, business/convention centers and hotels are increasingly providing Internet access, and in many cases, this access is free. Many of these locations also offer cloud printing facilities on-premises. CPS providers are striving to grow their public cloud network and to support multiple platforms and devices through their offerings. Gartner’s Symposium survey showed that business travelers rate highest the ability to print to a local printer at a hotel and at an event. More than 40% of respondents shared that it is extremely important to print at a hotel, and almost one-third (27%) report it is extremely important to print while attending an event.

But have you even heard of cloud printing?
Cloud printing awareness is still low, but it is improving. Our survey showed that only 18% of all respondents had tried CPS, but this figure had more than doubled since 2011, showing that progress is being made. 

Would you trust a cloud printing service?
Growth of the mobile workforce and those workers' need to print on the move pose security problems for the IT department. In addition, many are hesitant to use the cloud for fear of a security breach. Providers are working on ways to improve security features and to encourage CPS usage. Adoption of CPSs will depend on how soon a user-friendly, standardized cloud printing architecture is put in place and how quickly users (particularly business users) adopt CPSs as a routine way to print occasional, but valuable, documents when on the move.

What would you print?
In 2011, Word documents ranked the most likely to be printed via CPS, according to Gartner’ Symposium survey. This changed significantly in 2012, when PowerPoint presentations led the rankings, with Word documents in second place. This, combined with the finding that there was a 45% increase in the proportion of respondents indicating the importance of printing in color, suggests that valuable documents are more likely to be printed. There was also significant downturn in the importance of printing emails, which suggested that pure information content does not require printing, and that it can be viewed on screen.

How much are you willing to pay?
The ability to capture and monetize printed pages through the cloud is an important tool for providers looking to lock you in as customers, providing a secure way to print anything, anytime, anywhere. However, there are limits on how much you will pay. Gartner’s Symposium survey showed there is a worldwide decline in user willingness to pay a high amount, that is, one dollar or more for the CPS print job. In 2011, about 76% of the respondents stated they would pay one dollar or more, while in 2012, only 40% said the same.

In conclusion, be aware of your cloud print options when traveling. Chances are that the location where you are will offer some kind of cloud printing service. Cost of page charges are decreasing, and you may even find a free service in some venues and places. Security is improving, and you should consider using the cloud to print valuable, if not highly sensitive, documents while on the move.

SHARON MCNEE is the agenda manager for the imaging and print services team, which is part of Gartner's Technology and Service Provider Research organization. A principal analyst, she focuses her research on global office and production print, managed print services, cloud printing services and strategic document outsourcing. For the full report, "Market Trends: Evolving Cloud Printing Services, Worldwide, 2013," email





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